Well, Eddie started another year of school. Every year brings new teachers, new expectations, and new fears. Our year started with a three-hour planning meeting involving a special education teacher, a paraprofessional, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, general education teachers, myself (parent and teacher of the visually impaired), and the school psychologist. Even though it was daunting, it was fantastic that they all agreed to meet before day one.
One of the areas we discussed was how to involve him in his 2nd grade classroom. Most of his day is spent in a self-contained room, which often is most appropriate for him. However, we do like him to be considered as a peer to the other second graders. As I’ve discussed before, I like the class to “own” him to some extent as well as his gen-ed teachers. For any ownership to occur, he has to be visible.
I was happy to learn that his classroom teachers (he has two) felt the same as I did. They openly shared their daily schedule, and helped us find a way to work Eddie in while making it meaningful to him. Sure, we could have him sit in there all day, but it would be miserable for him, and the kids, and the teachers. We’d see behaviors constantly that were due to him being bored and having to sit through instruction he wasn’t ready for at all.
What we figured out were times in the day he could “stop-in” for 10, 15, or 20 minutes and participate appropriately. This included turning in work done on the brailler. He has a desk in the room he sits at when there. He is required to greet his teachers in the morning and report what type of lunch he’s having. He goes in for a “story time” after recess. He also participates in P.E. and music.
Above that, I simply requested that whatever the class was doing, Eddie was considered. By considered I mean they ask themselves (and hopefully me) if Eddie can participate. How can he participate? Would he benefit from being included? Would his peers benefit? What could he learn from it? How can we help him be involved? I want him to be thought of instead of being an after-thought.
As I’ve done before, I went in today to talk to Eddie’s class about his visual impairment and a little bit about his sensory issues related to autism. This year I did the overview, and then I branched out and taught “sighted-guide” to them along with his orientation and mobility specialist. If you are unfamiliar, this is a specific way to guide a person with a visual impairment when they are relying on you.
What I hoped was that some of the kids would be willing to use sighted-guide with Eddie. He needs to practice, and he needs more interaction with peers. If some brave souls were willing to walk with Eddie to lunch, or recess, or P.E. he could be more visible with his class…and less reliant on the aide working with him.
After teaching the lesson I heard two particular comments that made me laugh and put a big smile on my face. One boy said, “It’s cool to be Eddie.” Who wouldn’t love to hear that about their kid? Another student said after trying sighted guide, “I felt like I was becoming Eddie. I could feel his cane…and his glasses…and it was like I was him.” He obviously has quite the imagination.
As always, we spend the first days of school brainstorming new ways to improve Eddie’s social skills and opportunities to be with his peers. Here’s a call-out to other parents: How do you help your children with visual impairments fit in? If fitting in is difficult (like it is for Eddie) how do you help them simply be included? I appreciate any thoughts…and hope you all have a fantastic school year!